Waiting at the RTO

My husband needed to get his driver’s license renewed.

Fortunately, we belong to the Automobile Association of Southern India, which will help with this kind of thing. You have to fill out one form; get a doctor to fill out another, stating that you are neither mentally nor physically unable to drive, and that you can read the numbers of the license plate on the car in front of you; provide FOUR photographs; your old license, and its copy. Pay the Rs. 200 fee. Then they assign you a date and time when you must appear at your local RTO (Regional Traffic Office), and assure you that someone from AASI will be there to help you.

We appeared, so did he, he told us to sit. Our RTO – in Mandaveli – is quite cruddy: crammed into what must have been a private house, in a narrow street, with a corrugated fibreglass roof put up in the front yard to shelter narrow and tottering metal benches. Three ceiling fans mainly benefited the RTO employees, each sitting at a small table with a big ledger. Many people, almost all men, crammed together on the benches, waiting.

Eventually my husband was led into a tiny room to get yet another photograph taken. More waiting. While I waited I sketched people waiting.


It was interesting that the signs of admonition: AVOID STANDING. DO NOT SPIT. SILENCE PLEASE were in English and Tamil, while the large signboard which tells you what you have to actually provide (I made out several instances of ‘one original and one copy’) was in Tamil only.

Eventually the AASI man brought my husband his unlaminated licence (as he said, the photograph looked as if it had been taken AFTER the post-mortem). He had to verify that the information on it was correct, sign that he had received it – and then give it back.

More waiting.

Eventually the laminated license was handed over, and my husband had to sign that he really really had received it this time.

What would we do without the ledger suppliers? I think I’ll get one of my own, and begin to record EVERYTHING, and take your signature, and your thumbprint too.

And that was it for another five years. I can’t wait.

2 Comments so far

  1. Rajesh (unregistered) on December 15th, 2006 @ 9:35 pm

    Nancy, the sketch’s are very good. Very nice artistic skills.

  2. Thad E. Ginathom (unregistered) on December 16th, 2006 @ 12:36 am


    I took my driving test there a couple of weeks ago (under the protective care of the driving school).

    Four hours waiting and two minutes driving.

    Now I know what’s wrong with Indian driving! I saw people ‘passing’ their two-wheeler test who card hardly balance!

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